August 26 marks the national Women's Equality Day, celebrating the history of women's rights. The day started in 1971 by the U.S. Congress remembering the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women full voting rights in 1920. The peaceful civil rights movement by women began in 1848 at the world's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
To celebrate, NEWS10 wants to recognize ten wonderful women (though there are thousands) in the Capital Region that have made an impact or been influential in some way. Nominations were accepted telling NEWS10 why the influential woman in your life deserves to be recognized.
Congratulations to all the wonderful women in the Capital Region!
Working to make our neighborhood a better place: Elizabeth Young
Elizabeth Young, Executive Director of the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District. Name one of the Top 40 under 40 by the Capital District Business Review, entrepreneur, and all around top notch influential woman in the City of Troy. She's in charge of events such as the Troy Pig Out, Victorian Stroll, and Chowderfest and has been instrumental in bringing visions for the City of Troy to life.
Nominated by Delia Hubbard
A "mother, mentor, and best friend": Gayle Blakesley
As I am sure many other people will tell you, my mother has been the most influential person in my life. From the time that I was young, she helped me to develop into the person that I am. My mother taught me to value diversity at a young age. Once, when I asked for a "skin colored" crayon when we were coloring together, she held out a handful of crayons, ranging in colors from light to dark. She explained that all people's skins are different colors and all are beautiful. That must have been 36 or 37 years ago, but it is a lesson I never forgot. When children on the school bus made fun of me for sitting with a girl with Down's Syndrome, my mother taught me about friendship and seeing people for who they truly are. Through my mother I learned how to be an advocate, and to understand that what is right is not always popular. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Carrie Snyder
Fighting for our country: Lieutenant Colonel Janice M. Gravely
Lieutenant Colonel Janice M. Gravely, Battalion Commander, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, Watervliet, N.Y.
Lieutenant Colonel Gravely is only the second female to serve as a Battalion Commander for the Albany Recruiting Battalion since its inception in 1972. In her capacity as a battalion commander, she directly and significantly impacts the lives of over 250 Soldiers and family members in four states as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa on a daily basis. Lieutenant Colonel Gravely is responsible for recruiting volunteers to serve as Soldiers, officers, and warrant officers committed to defending our nation's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Joseph R. Newfrock
Taking matters into her own hands: Linda Shannon
Ms. Linda Shannon, Founder and President of Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.
Linda Shannon lives in Niskayuna, NY. She founded VBF in 1996 at the Albany Medical Center. Back then there were almost no physicians in the world that specialized or even had knowledge of how best to treat birthmarks (also called vascular birthmarks). There was no Internet. Linda can tell this story better than I can. It goes something like this: She wrote letters to and made phone calls to physicians nationwide looking for a doctor that could treat her baby's birthmark. When she discovered that doctors did not prioritize gaining knowledge on how to treat birthmarks, she took it upon herself to figure out a way to educate physicians on the subject AND raising money to pay to bring people with birthmarks to the enlightened surgeons.Her foundation has networked over 50,000 children and adults into treatment since 1994 when it began with her daughter's hemangioma.. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Sue Robbiano
Doesn't see color: Margaret B. Cunningham
Margaret B. Cunningham, is now 92 and frail, but remains committed to doing whatever she can for her community and her family.
Margaret Cunningham is an artist, an activist, a community worker, founder of several important and lasting organizations and recently, the co-author of a book.
Mrs Cunningham came to the Capital Region in 1957. She and her husband and children were the first African American family to move into Delmar, NY. She has just completed a book entitled "Integrating Delmar 1957: The Story of a Friendship", describing the search for housing and the unique and lasting friendship that was developed with the white family that was willing to rent to them. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Miki Conn
A selfless mother teaching lessons: Susan Walker
I would love for my mother, Susan Walker to be recognized for being an influential and very special woman. My mother raised me along with my two brothers, always putting her children first. As I became an adult, she became more than "just" a mother to me. When my eyes opened, I realized she became my best friend and role model. She endured a lot while raising us, working and always trying to see us strive for the best. Now I am a mother of two beautiful babies and I see what she had taught me all these years. Always value family and trust within. Always try to be better, never settle. READ MORE >>
Nominated by her daughter
A best friend: Nilda Rabiu
I am so happy to nominate my best friend Nilda Rabiu. Nilda has been a significant support to me and my family through my entire life.
I met Nilda in college when we were in our late 20, we are now friends for 23 years, I had my first child in college and she was there for me when I had no family around, she was always giving great advices and recommendations based on her childhood experiences. She is the kind of person that never left me behind when I was in good or bad situation. Through the years I realized that she is not only that significant friend to me but for many of the people she knows. Nilda will never hesitate to sacrifice her personal time to help others; it doesn't matter to her if the person is a good friend or just someone from her community. Nilda is always around a person who needs emotional or material support and she would never leave those people without making any good contribution to their lives. Nilda is the main support for her entire family and also a unique person who can change people lives.
Nominated by Rocio Villa
Looking out for her constituents: Carolyn McLaughlin
In honor of Women's Equality Day I would like to nominate Carolyn McLaughlin, President of the Albany Common Council, as one of the 10 influential women in the Capital Region. In her role as an elected official for the past 14 years she has brought competence, caring, and compassion to all of her interactions with members of the Albany community. From senior services to youth programming, from repairing potholes to home rehabilitation, from job creation to social security, from abandoned buildings to affordable housing Carolyn always puts her constituents first. She is an advocate for those who cannot or will not advocate for themselves. As a council member representing the second Ward for twelve years and now serving as President of the Common Council since 2010, she has always exhibited excellence in leadership.
The community observes the public responsibility associated with her position, but it is for the things that she does privately just because she cares about the people of Albany that I call her an influential women. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Elsyda Ahmed
A nurse, nursing her daughters: Melissa Hilt
I would like to nominate my sister Melissa Hilt. My sister is a well-established RN at Van Renesslear Manor. She began her career with them as a CNA and then an LPN as she progressed through her education at Hudson Valley Community College. She obtained her RN when she was 20 years old. Less then 10 years later she was promoted to a training liaison within the facility. She was nominated and accepted into the Who's Who of Nursing about that same time. READ MORE >>
Nominated by Dawn Gariepy, one awe inspired sister.
Dedicated to helping others: Dr. Cecelia Sanz
This amazing lady fled Cuba during the difficult time of Fidel Castro's Leadership. I understand that she left with her two young daughters and the clothes on her back. She never saw her Cuban family again. She arrived in Florida. Although she had been a professional in her native Cuba ( I believe she was a veterinarian) she did whatever she could to feed her daughters.
Dr. Sanz enrolled in medical school and became a physician, moving to the Albany area. She now resides in Colonie and donates all of her time to a day care in the Hispanic neighborhood of Albany. A tiny lady with a big heart, she encourages young and old to do the right thing, she loves the children she works with always thinking of their happiness, health, and needs.
I have often wondered if I would have the strength to do what Dr. Sanz did. Her vitality, tenacious nature, grit, and compassion have been a gift to me, as has been her friendship. She is truly a woman to be recognized although I am certain she would not think she was exceptional.
Nominated by Dottie MacVean
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